Written by Don Byrd

Update: The Tarrant County GOP voted 139-49 to keep Dr. Shafi in his role as Vice Chair. Good on them for rejecting an overtly discriminatory bid to remove him.]

Dr. Shahid Shafi is a surgeon and a councilman in Texas’ Tarrant County who was recently appointed Vice Chair of the county’s Republican Party. But he faces removal from that post for one outrageous reason: Shafi is Muslim.  A motion to have him removed offered by was openly based on his religion and a vote is scheduled for today.

ABC News reports:

“We don’t think he’s suitable as a practicing Muslim to be vice chair because he’d be the representative for ALL Republicans in Tarrant County, and not ALL Republicans in Tarrant County think Islam is safe or acceptable in the U.S., in Tarrant County, and in the TCGOP,” [party member Dorrie] O’Brien recently posted on Facebook, according to the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram. “There are big questions surrounding exactly where Dr. Shafi’s loyalties lie.”

For his part, Shafi rightly insists what millions of American Muslims know: being American and being Muslim “are not mutually exclusive.” He’s standing up, he says, for the fundamental principle of equality. “Religious discrimination… is illegal, immoral, unethical, and un-American.” Debate on O’Brien’s motion is scheduled for tonight. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Senators on the Judiciary Committee once again made news for questions posed during confirmation hearings, suggesting that a federal judicial nominee’s religious beliefs and religious associations might be disqualifying. Nominee Carl Anderson is a member of the Knights of Columbus, which Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) noted is an “all-male society comprised primarily of Catholic men.” Senator Marie Hirono (D-HI) asked “If confirmed, do you intend to end your membership with this organization to avoid any appearance of bias?””

In an impassioned op-ed for The Hill, which everyone should take the time to read, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) railed against the treatment Nelson and other judicial nominees have received:

While I absolutely believe in the separation of church and state as a necessity to the health of our nation, no American should be asked to renounce his or her faith or membership in a faith-based, service organization in order to hold public office.

The party that worked so hard to convince people that Catholics and Knights of Columbus like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy could be both good Catholics and good public servants shows an alarming disregard of its own history in making such attacks today.

We must call this out for what it is – religious bigotry.  This is true not just when such prejudice is anti-Catholic, but also when it is anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, or anti-Protestant, or any other religion.

The U.S. Constitution stands for no principle more strongly than this: one’s religious beliefs and religious association have no bearing on qualifications for public service. There is no religious test for public office. Period. And yes, political party leadership is not technically a government position, but the same principle applies. Americans of all faiths, and no faith, must be equally free to participate fully in our democracy.